Highlife World Series

2013 - 2015

"To see a lot of the young artists that I've worked with - who used to sit in the background listening and asking questions - become a part of bigger movements and achieve amazing things, that for me has been so fulfilling."

The Highlife World Series is a collaborative stream of releases by Esa, Santuri East Africa and Highlife, working with young musicians and traditional instruments around the globe. A one-of-a-kind evolutionary venture, it charts Esa’s journey from the Havana World Music Festival in Cuba with Noisettes star Shingai Shoniwa to Doadoa, a performing arts market in Uganda, to a mobile studio on the banks of Nairobi’s Lake Naivasha - and beyond. What started as several strong rums and a surprise studio session with Cuba’s hidden talent, turned into a global movement. This is where the radical ideas and otherworldly sounds came not only for the Highlife World Series: Cuba, Kenya and Uganda editions, but also for Esa’s 2017 AWEH EP, released by Dekmantel, and his latest compilation, Amandla: Music to the People.

“We set up a studio session at the National Theatre in Kampala and I was working with the Zawose Family from Bagamoyo, Tanzania. One day, I heard Pendo Zawose using some really interesting vocal techniques. I was very captivated by her so I thought let’s try something. I got my friend Narch, a producer, involved - his sound is raw and dirty. Her voice was also very raw but beautiful. I thought, let’s see if these two worlds can meet. I put the track on and she did it in one take! That [the making of Blast] was really the start of these otherworldly sounds of East Africa. Really breaking down that notion of the stereotypical, primitive sounds. It was like yeah, we can do that; we can give you that, but we can also think outside the box we usually put in. That was a really mind-blowing time for me.”


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